In a private meeting last week, President Joe Biden reportedly “raged” over the New York Times’ coverage of the al-Ahli Baptist Hospital bombing.
The New York Times disseminated Hamas propaganda two weeks ago by publishing as truth allegations that Israel struck the hospital and killed more than 500 people. But the newspaper, like most legacy media outlets, was quickly forced to backtrack because Israel was not responsible, the hospital was not destroyed, and 500 people were not killed.
Meeting with a group of Wall Street executives at the White House last week, Biden fumed that a headline and story spreading Hamas’ propaganda had appeared “in an American newspaper,” according to Semafor.
Biden also expressed concern that the newspaper could have escalated tensions in the Middle East, the news outlet reported.
Editors at the newspaper acknowledged they “relied too heavily on claims by Hamas” in the initial coverage of the story and “did not make clear that those claims could not immediately be verified.”
“The report left readers with an incorrect impression about what was known and how credible the account was,” the editors said.
The acknowledgment of poor judgement is good. But could the reliance on Hamas have been prevented? According to Vanity Fair, which obtained internal company messages showing deliberations about the Times’ coverage of the al-Ahli Baptist Hospital story, the answer is yes.
Vanity Fair reported last week:
A series of Slack messages obtained by Vanity Fair shows there was immediate concern inside The New York Times over the paper’s presentation of the Gaza hospital bombing story. But senior editors appear to have dismissed suggestions from an international editor, along with a junior reporter stationed in Israel who has been contributing to the paper’s coverage of the war, that the paper hedge in its framing of events.
That international editor, whom Vanity Fair did not name, told senior editors the Times’ initial headline — “Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinians Say” — went “way too far.”
And when the international editor received pushback, he informed his colleagues that it is journalistic malpractice to “hang the attribution of something so big on one source without having tried to verify it” and that putting “the attribution at the end doesn’t give us cover, if we’ve been burned and we’re wrong.”
As it turned out, within minutes, the international editor was right, and the rest is history.
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